The last episode before the two-part finale next Friday (which airs simultaneously in the UK, early Saturday morning), I don't have much to say about "The Boy Must Live". This hour very much an information dump, which I'm sure some people will be frustrated about. It's always best to impart information without simply having people sit around talking, but I guess certain TV shows just become so knotted there's no other option. And to be honest, I'm just glad we finally have a grasp of what Walter's (John Noble) plan to defeat The Observers is, and have been told the back-story of the boy Observer known as Michael.
"The Boy Must Live" had the team track down the mysterious Donald (Michael Cerveris), who helped Walter formulate his Observer-beating plan before he was put into stasis and lost his memory, thanks to a dip in the sensory-deprivation tank. Donald (aka the kindly Observer referred to as September) was surprisingly forthcoming about everything, too—which made a change for a show like Fringe, which is often unwilling to show its cards. Seeing as the writers only have three hours left to end a very complex story, this felt fair. So, Donald was banished from The Observers and had his tech removed (restoring his emotions and eliminating his powers), where he came up with a plan to change the course of future-history by demonstrating to the scientists who created the "Observer race" that that their breakthrough will only lead to terrible things. Michael, the genetic progeny of September, was a genetic anomaly who had emotions as well as intelligence—although, um, you'd be hard-pressed to believe that, because the kid's hardly a barrel of laughs. And the seemingly random objects Walter, Peter (Joshua Jackson), Olivia (Anna Torv) and Astrid (Jasik Nicole) have been collecting all season will form part of a time machine to accomplish their timeline-changing mission.
I did enjoy "The Boy Must Live", but some of its supposedly big revelations fell rather flat. I think this is because Fringe has already taken us down an alternative timeline, so it just feels like an easy and obvious escape clause. My guess is that Michael's involvement is to make sure the main characters retain their memories after the timeline alters, because otherwise where's the sense of victory going to come from? This seems likely, because it was made clear in this episode that he's given Walter his original timeline memories back—so he now recalls events of season 1-3, along with Peter. I'd forgotten Walter didn't even have those memories, however, and I'm probably not alone. As much as I love and enjoy Fringe, I think even its writers will admit their mythology lacks precision and isn't easily grasped. So much of season 4's idea to send Peter into an alternative timeline messed up what was already a difficult mytharc to wrap your head around.
As I said, there wasn't actually much to this episode beyond trying to let audiences understand more about the big plan going into the two-part finale. It was great to finally see the Observer's native era of 2609 A.D (a dark, oppressive cityscape), I liked the moment where Windmark (Michael Kopsa) admitted to his superior that he's experience an emotional need to eradicate Walter's group, the scene where Windmark and an associate almost started to experience emotions thanks to a snow globe and jazz music was also really nice, the call back to the phenomenal "White Tulip" was cool, it was great to see Michael Cerveris back on the show as a different version of September (this job has been one crazy ride for that actor, when you realise his role's gone from negligible weekly "easter egg" to key component), and the stage is set for a gripping showdown next week after Michael (infuriatingly) got left behind at a monorail station and was captured by Windmark.
written by Graham Roland / directed by Paul Holahan / 11 January 2012 / Fox